Beginning the search for birth relatives

Once you’ve obtained your original birth certificate and the records about your adoption and have had time to absorb the information they contain, you may very well be in a position to begin a search for birth relatives.  This page provides information and guidance regarding:

Do you wish to continue?

How to conduct a personal search– step by step

What to expect from the search

Hiring a professional researcher

What happens if I cannot find the birth relative I am looking for?

What if I find out that my birth mother and or birth father has died?

Do you wish to continue?

Some people are content with the information they receive from the birth certificate and the adoption records and don’t want to begin a search for birth relatives. If this is the case for you then it’s important not to be pressured by others into something you don’t want to do or are not ready for at this point in your life.

Other people may want to take the search further and find birth family members. If this is the case for you, or if it was one of your goals from the moment you started applying for your birth certificate and adoption records, then the information in these pages will help you prepare and progress your search.   

You are always free to change your mind at any point in the searching process or put it on hold if you decide that in fact the time is not right in your life for you and your family to make contact with your birth relatives. Don’t forget that it can be helpful to talk to someone in your support network about how you are feeling and thinking.  

How to conduct a personal search– step by step

We recommend you commence your search for a birth relative in the following order by clicking the links below:

  1. Adoption Contact Registers
  2. Birth, Marriage and Death Registers
  3. Electoral Registers
  4. NHS Death Registration Enquiries
  5. Wills and Probate
  6. Other sources of information

What to expect from the search

You are essentially about to become a detective for a while and much of the process is equivalent to the work required in researching a family tree. People’s experience of tracing their birth relatives can vary depending on the individual. Some find it boring and tedious, particularly when they have to trawl through the birth, marriage and death indexes. Others find the experience interesting and exciting as they collate information about their birth family and get a sense of history piecing itself together.

The search journey may be relatively easy or complex and frustrating – particularly if you a searching for a birth relative with a very common name such as ‘John Smith.’

If you are in touch with an adoption advisor from your local authority or regional or voluntary adoption agency they may be able to offer some support and advice if you are having difficulty with your search or put you in touch with a support group if one exists near you. 

Hiring a professional researcher

If you feel that you might struggle with work of this nature, or have already commenced a search with little success, you might consider hiring a professional family researcher.

If this is a route you’d like to explore the Adoption Agency that arranged your adoption or the agency you’re working with may be able to do this work for a fee or may be able to recommend someone who can. Please note that if you use private researchers with no link to a registered Adoption Support Agency they can only legally assist with the search and it is not legal for them to make an approach on your behalf to the birth relative you have found and want to be in touch with.

This means that although these may be reputable they are not registered to provide intermediary services with Ofsted. For more information about Intermediary Service Registration see our section on Intermediary Services.

What happens if I cannot find the birth relative I am looking for?

Sometimes searches can prove very difficult and you do not manage to find the birth relative you are looking for. This is time to rethink and widen your search to find other birth relatives – for example a sibling or adult child of the person you are looking for.

You could also look at the Searching Guide that is on the Adoption Search Reunion Website that may be able to give you some more ideas

If you have been conducting the search yourself, you may also want to consider contacting an Adoption Support Agency or reputable tracing agency to help you, but you will need to pay a fee for the search.

What if I find out that my birth mother and or birth father has died?

This can be really upsetting, particularly if you have never considered this possibility before.

If you have found that your birth relative has died then you could apply for the death certificate as usually it will have the name and address of the person’s next of kin, so you can consider contacting them.

You may also be able to find out if the person has left a Will as this might open up other possibilities for contacting another relative. They may be able to tell you more about the birth relative you were looking for and provide you with photographs or documents about your birth relative.

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